A pasteurisation process that kills avian flu in eggs could provide reassurance to consumers that eggs are safe to eat, according to the companies that developed it.
The South Africa-based Safe Eggs consortium said that a Dutch study had shown that eggs could harbour the bird flu virus for up to 20 days at ambient temperature, which is how most eggs are sold in supermarkets in the UK.
However, the consortium claimed that recent tests proved that the Safe Eggs pasteurisation system, which was initially
developed as a means to eliminate salmonella, destroyed the bird flu pathogen.
During the Safe Eggs process, eggs are kept at a temperature that kills off undesirable micro-organisms without cooking the eggs or affecting their taste.
The heat in the system is generated by a combination of microwave and hot-air technology in a special oven.
The Safe Eggs consortium has just secured a worldwide patent for the pasteurisation system and said it was in a position to export the technology to egg producers abroad.
Executives from Safe Eggs are coming to the UK at the end of this month to drum up custom.
Nell Wiid, MD of Eggbert Eggs, one of South Africa’s largest egg suppliers and a consortium member, said that the process added little to production costs.
“The biotechnology is the first economical method for the pasteurisation of eggs in bulk.
“In South Africa pasteurised shell eggs are only 5% more expensive than other eggs.”
Industry figures show that UK egg sales held up during the first avian flu scare last autumn. But fears persist that the spread of the disease into Europe could make consumers think twice about eating poultry products.
Richard Clarke